Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 28, 1964

Two Grave Dangers

Lloyd Moyer

There are signs which definitely point up TWO great dangers facing the church in our day. These dangers are:

(1) Drawing lines of fellowship over minor matters, and

(2) An effort to eliminate free, frank and open study of all differences. It seems that some have the idea that any time two brethren disagree on any matter that they must disfellowship each other. Because of this idea, some would have us avoid all discussion of matters of differences, for fear that we will be "scrapping among ourselves" or that we will "split our forces" and, therefore, weaken our fight against modernism and liberalism. A question comes to my mind: what good would it do for us to win the battle against modernism and liberalism and close our pulpits and papers to an open discussion of scriptural subjects?

First, let me say that I see no need for "disfellowshipping" over matters of differences. These should be discussed freely and the one in error should correct his practice. The trouble is that too many brethren, when their position is questioned, brand their critic as unsound or unscriptural. They do not accept the criticism and make a further study of their position; but begin a frantic effort to justify their action. This usually does result in "scrapping among ourselves," and in many cases causes a split.

The answer to these questions and the solution to these problems can be found very easy. Humility is the answer. When any man becomes so proud and egotistical that he cannot accept constructive criticism from his brethren and be led to re-examine his position, he has reached a point where the humility which must be characteristic of God's children is not manifested in his life. The only righteous thing for one to do when it is pointed out to him that he is in error in something is to simply confess that he was wrong and cease the practice and pray God to forgive him. But, how many are willing to do so? I recall a story about Abraham Lincoln. Some one told Mr. Lincoln that a certain gentleman had called him (Mr. Lincoln) a fool. Mr. Lincoln replied, "I have always held that man in high regard and had great respect for his opinion, therefore, I had better look into this matter because he might be right." I do not know if this is a true story or not. But I do know that it sets forth exactly what I am trying to say in this article. When one of my brethren says that I am wrong about a matter, I had best look into the word of God and see if my actions conform to God's will. You know it is just possible that my brother might be right! If, after a complete and honest study of the matter, I find that I am right, I should present my arguments as clearly as possible and be willing to allow my brother to attempt an answer to them. Honesty and humility on the part of both parties will solve the problem. If the one criticized is guilty, he should correct the matter according to God's law. If the person doing the criticizing is wrong, he should apologize and admit that he was wrong.

Discussions on this level will always do good. They help the persons involved in the discussions and the people who hear or read the discussions. I believe that this was the kind of discussion held in the church at Antioch between Paul and Peter. (Gal. 2:11-14) The Holy Spirit says that Peter was to be blamed. Also that Paul spoke to Peter about the matter before them all. If this be not the way to handle a situation like this, then the Holy Spirit made a mistake, and away goes the creditability of the scriptures. Who would accuse Peter and Paul of "scrapping" among themselves? Who would say that they "split" the church and "weakened their forces" by discussing a thing that was wrong? Who would say that Peter and his followers "withdrew fellowship" from Paul for questioning Peter's practice? Will some one say that Peter rejected Paul's criticism and refused to correct his wrong?

I suppose that Peter's influence was as great as that of any man in the church in that day. Yet, his practice was questioned and condemned by another brother. I, personally, believe that Peter was humble and honest enough to correct his actions. May God help us all to have humility and honesty demanded to correct that which is wrong in our lives. And may we all be thankful that we have brethren with courage enough to question our practices when they think we are in error. This attitude provides an open door for free, frank and honorable debates on all matters of differences. That there are matters over which we must disfellowship brethren, I freely admit. But disfellowshipping should come only after much study, discussion, prayer and exhortation. It is the last step.

— 41325 Kathlean Street, Fremont, California